Pubdate: Wed, 19 Feb 2014
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Michael Votaw


Missouri Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, recently gave an interview about
the proposed revisions to the Missouri criminal code. During this
interview, he talked at length about a section of the bill that he saw
fit to remove, a section that was intended to revise certain drug
offense laws. While I don't necessarily disagree with his stated
reason for removing it (the idea being that "controversial" law reform
should not be buried in 800-page bills, but instead debated on its
own), I think his personal views on the subject have led him to
prematurely dismiss these reforms.

His personal opinion seems to be that any drug law reform could be
construed as encouraging its use, and that continuing to harshly
punish people is more beneficial than risking increased drug use.
While certainly well-intentioned, the claims that he's making are
simply untrue.

A multitude of studies have shown not only that decriminalization does
not significantly increase drug use, but also that severe laws do
little to curb it. In other words, our drug laws might not influence
drug use in any substantial way. They may, however, drastically affect
the lives of those convicted, for years after their jail sentences or
probation ends. People convicted on drug charges can face educational
and employment discrimination, a significant loss of lifetime
earnings, as well as loss of other social welfare opportunities. In
some of these cases, not even those convicted of drunk-driving or
murder are subject to these discriminatory policies. With regards to
marijuana use in particular, it's quite evident that the repercussions
of our laws can, in some cases, cause far more harm than the drug
itself ever could.

If Cox really wants to protect the livelihoods of the youth, he should
help put an end to laws that allow a handful of bad decisions to
jeopardize their entire future.

Michael Votaw   St. Louis
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